Doc Martin helped bring house music to Los Angeles 30 years ago, and now he's the city's underground king

Now that Memorial Day is in the rear-view mirror, it's officially summertime across the U.S. And what better way to bring in summer than partying in a park bathed with sunlight and good music? 

Paradise in the Park is coming to Los Angeles' scenic Grand Park on Saturday, June 1. The event is a creation of house music producer Jamie Jones, who's brought it to many cities such as New York, Toronto and Ibiza to showcase local artists alongside more established acts.

That makes Doc Martin the perfect choice to play Paradise in Los Angeles. Martin, whose real name is Martin Mendoza, moved to L.A. from San Francisco nearly 30 years ago and has been DJing underground house music parties ever since as an early adopter of the acid house genre that swept the globe in the 1990s. He was just highlighted by LA Weekly as the best house DJ/producer the city has to offer.

AOL talked to Martin about his love affair with the City of Angels, how he first discovered house music and helped spread its gospel across California.

AOL: You’re originally from San Francisco, but have lived in Los Angeles for a long time and are associated with L.A. now. What made you move down here? 

DM: At that time, I’d done pretty much everything I could in San Francisco. I’d been throwing my own shows and bringing house music artists from New York, London — everywhere around the world. There was nowhere to go forward. I wanted to try something different. I came to L.A. for A Guy Called Gerald, my first warehouse party here. It was amazing, I got the bug. So, I started at the bottom and worked my way up again. 


AOL: What’s kept you here for all these years?

DM: It’s a good question, because I actually came to L.A. for a year. And that was in 1990, and I’m still here. (laughs)

L.A. doesn’t agree with everyone, but for me, I really like having the ocean and the mountains nearby. I can go to Vegas from here, or to Mexico. The city itself really appeals to me, too. With Sublevel [Martin's label], we've got a pretty good thing here with our music and our parties. We have a good repertoire here with the people.


AOL: You were recently named best House DJ/Producer of Los Angeles by LA Weekly, and it's not the first time they've recognized you. What does that mean to have that title bestowed upon you? 

DM: It’s kind of crazy in a way. When I first came to L.A., not one person knew who I was, really. To go from that obscurity to something like the LA Weekly recognizing you, that is quite an honor for me.


AOL: You’ve been DJing house music for about 30 years — do you remember your first gig and how you got into the scene? 

When I first discovered house music, it came through all the gay record stores in San Francisco. No one really knew what it was -- it didn’t have a title, there was no internet. So, we didn't know what was going on in Chicago, New York or London. I just sort of gravitated towards all these records.

There was a promo for "French Kiss" that the local record store got. The record store owner was like, “This is horrible, it doesn’t do anything for me.” And I said, “I want every record that sounds like this.”

It was my hip-hop night on a Monday night, and then at midnight, I just played those house music records at the end. It really perturbed a lot of the hip-hop crowd. Because they were like, what is this stuff? A few weeks of that and people really started getting into it. It kind of blew up, we started doing our own parties in San Francisco.

When I came to L.A., it was on the cusp of blowing up down here in the underground warehouse scene and all these big parties. Then from there, I went and did my residency at Glam Slam for Prince’s nightclub. A bunch of things happened from there. I went on tour with Deee-Lite. A lot of things happened after that opened door.


AOL: Doing a residency in Prince's nightclub and going on tour with Deee-Lite, that's awesome. Do you have any cool memories or stories from that time?

DM: That was quite a blur (laughs). It was really the first time I’d seen the whole United States. To be on a tour bus and start from California and go all the way to the east coast, then up to Canada and everything. It was quite amazing for me and I think it brought an awareness of my DJing to the whole country. This was before social media. Urb magazine did a story that kind of blew things up as well, it was really the only big dance magazine in the U.S. at the time. 

Prince through the years
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Prince through the years
Singer Prince performs in a surprise appearance on the "American Idol" television show finale at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California in this May 24, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello/Files
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 15: American singer, songwriter, musician and actor Prince performing in NYC at the Bottom Line on February 15, 1980. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images)
Prince performing in Minneapolis on April 30,1990. (Photo: Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect)
American pop star Prince performing at Wembley, London, 22nd August 1990. (Photo by Graham Wiltshire/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American singer-songwriter Prince performs on stage, London, 1993. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
The Artist formerly known as Prince performing at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View Calif. on October 10th, 1997. Image By: Tim Mosenfelder/ImageDirect
FOR RELEASE WITH STORY BC-ENTERTAINMENT-PRINCE - The Artist formerly known as Prince seen here in a publicity photograph, July 29. The Artist formerly known as Prince has a new album "Newpower Soul" which was recorded, pressed and distributed by his NPG records label without the assistance of a major industry label. MS/CM/SB
05/16/00 New York City The Artist Formely Known as Prince reclaims his name 'Prince' and announces public tours at his Paisley Park Studio, during a press conference in New York City. Photo by Evan Agostini/ImageDirect
UNDATED FILE PHOTO: Singer Prince. (Photo by Diane Freed)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 8: Musical Artist Prince performs at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
Singer Prince, who was presented the Vanguard Award, performs during the 36th NAACP Image Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, March 19, 2005. The award show will be telecast on the Fox televison network in the United States on March 25. REUTERS/Lee Celano ljc/MK
HOLLYWOOD - FEBRUARY 27: Musician Prince arrives at the 77th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater on February 27, 2005 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MARCH 19: Musician Prince performs onstage at the 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on March 19, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Jun 30, 2006; New York, NY, USA; PRINCE performing at the Celebrate Brooklyn concert in Prospect Park. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Aviv Small/ZUMA Press. (©) Copyright 2006 by Aviv Small
Milan, ITALY: US singer Prince is pictured during Italian fashion house Gianni Versace show during the Spring/Summer 2007 women's collections, 29 September 2006 in Milan. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 04: Musician Prince performs during the 'Pepsi Halftime Show' at Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on February 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
MIAMI - FEBRUARY 01: Musician Prince performs during the Super Bowl XLI Half-Time Press Conference at the Miami Convention Center on February 1, 2007 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
July 7th, 2007 - Minneapolis, MN, USA - The first ten fans in line for an exclusive Prince performance at Macy's downtown received photographs of the iconic Minneapolis funk rocker. Prince performed with his band on the 8th floor at Macy's downtown during an exclusive concert launching his new per
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 25: Recording artist Prince leaving the 2007 Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Mortons on February 25, 2007 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JUNE 01: Singer Prince performs onstage during the 2007 NCLR ALMA Awards held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on June 1, 2007 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NCLR)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Singer Prince on stage at the 50th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the Staples Center on February 10, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3737 -- Air Date 03/27/2009 -- Pictured: Musical guest Prince performs during the Mercedes Benz outdoor concert series on March 27, 2009 -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
US singer Prince performs on October 11, 2009 at the Grand Palais in Paris. Prince has decided to give two extra concerts at the Grand Palais titled 'All Day/All Night' after he discovered the exhibition hall during Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel fashion show. AFP PHOTO BERTRAND GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 08: Prince attends the Apollo Theater's 75th Anniversary Gala at The Apollo Theater on June 8, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by George Napolitano/FilmMagic)
Prince Tour 2011
US singer and musician Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson) performs on stage at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, on June 30, 2011. AFP PHOTO BERTRAND GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
Sept. 24, 2012 - Chicago, Illinois, U.S. - Prince performed at the United Center on Monday night. Prince is scheduled to play three consecutive night as part of Welcome 2 Chicago. September 24, 2012, Chicago, Illinois, United Center, Prince in Concert, Welcome 2 Chicago (Credit Image: © Carlos Gonzalez/Minneapolis Star Tribune/

AOL: Over your time in L.A., how have you seen the music scene change?

DM: I don’t know if it’s gotten bigger, to be honest, because it was big when I got here. But it was all word of mouth and phone numbers, very underground in that sense. It was very protected as far as having the "right people" coming to the shows. And now it’s just completely blown up, which is great as well because now more people can hear the music and decide for themselves what styles they like. With the internet now, you have access to anything. Before, there was a DJ with the bag of records, and that's what you were getting for the night, no matter how it went.


AOL: Los Angeles might be behind New York, Chicago and Detroit when it comes to cities that are historically associated with house and techno. Do you think L.A. has been overlooked in that sense?

DM: In the past, I would say yes. There wasn’t really a big producer scene here of labels that were pushing that kind of music. In New York, for example, you would have Strictly Rhythm that would grab every aspiring producer and put them out to the world. Same with Chicago and Trax Records, and in Detroit you had various labels doing the same.

In L.A. you haven’t had that as much, where they start a label, grab all the local artists and push them out to the world. But I’m seeing that changing a lot now. There are people coming together, a lot of great producers are from here that people may have overlooked in the past, and they're getting their due worldwide. Also, everywhere I go, L.A. is known as one of the top cities for dance music now. It’s being recognized everywhere. 

AOL: Let's go into some quick hits about L.A. now. Do you have a favorite venue to play in the city? 

DM: Oh, God. That’s a tough one. I think most of the one-offs like Paradise are the ones that are really special here. I don’t mind playing at the clubs, either. They are bringing in great talent and they deserve to be full here in L.A.

People are probably going to crucify me for this, but I’ve really had an affection for Avalon the last two times I’ve played there. It’s been really great. There have been a lot of people showing up that aren’t the usual crowd that would go there.


AOL: Favorite food to eat in L.A.? 

DM: Well, this is like the melting pot of the world. For me, I would say sushi and KBBQ [Korean BBQ].  


AOL: Favorite L.A. neighborhood? 

DM: You didn’t make these easy! 


AOL: Well, when you’ve been here for 30 years, you get a lot of favorites. 

DM: That’s the problem. I really do like Venice a lot, even though I probably wouldn’t move there. But I do like the vibe and the people there.


AOL: Favorite L.A. sports team — assuming you’ve converted from San Francisco teams at this point? 

DM: I’ll say the Lakers, even though they’re not doing well right now.


AOL: Favorite beach? 

DM: (whistles) I’m going to get crucified for this, too … let’s go with Newport.  


AOL: And finally, what are you looking forward to this year? 

DM: I’m looking forward to doing more festivals. They’ve all been really good this year. I'm really looking forward to going back to New York, that’s like my second and third home. I’m starting some stuff with Space in Miami that should be quite good. I’m putting out a ton of music this year. And then just being involved in some great events here. I can’t wait for Paradise on Saturday, I think that's going to be a monumental event for L.A. 

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

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